Many independent pharmacies which once lined our streets have closed their doors as the commercialisation of pharmacies took root throughout South Africa with chain stores offering the services of in-house pharmacies which most independent pharmacist could not compete with.
However, today the only remaining independent pharmacy in Claremont is Nu Pharmacy and after more than 90 years of service, the pharmacy is embracing its third move within Cavendish Square.
“Beno Daniels opened the store in 1919 and by the 1970s it was one of the biggest pharmacy operations in South Africa. We delivered to Paarl, town, anywhere. Everyone knew Nu Pharmacy.
“Many people may remember Mr Daniels, he always had sweets in his pockets. Whether you were a grown-up or a child, he would give you sweets.
“Rael Stein and Rollo Norwitz bought the business from Mr Daniels around the 1950s and I bought the business from Mr Stein in 1995,” said current owner and fourth generation pharmacist, Brent Schnell.
Mr Schnell, who started his internship at Nu Pharmacy Cavendish Square in 1988 under the mentorship of Mr Stein, has seen the pharmacy through the days of “secundum artem” when pharmacist were not only responsible for the distribution of medicine but also made medicines and syrups in store.
“Secundem artem is the lost art. We are now a responsible adviser of medicine to the public. In the 1950’s drug manufacturers started mass producing packaging tubes, ointments and syrups, but up to that time the pharmacist was the apothecary,”said Mr Schnell.
Mr Stein is now packing up and moving the store around the corner from its current location, still in Cavendish Square despite certain predictions that the independent pharmacy would not compete with its corporate counterparts.
Mr Schnell said that the pharmacy is doing better than ever due to its stellar service delivery and loyal patrons.
“About 820 pharmacies have closed since 1990 licensing and regulations killed the industry. Medical aids started to make demands and wanted 20 percent discount.
“The pharmacy industry took a judder and it was the beginning of the erosion of services. We were dealing with the onslaught of corporate owner pharmacies.
“We compete with corporates head to head but what has kept us going is service, service and service. Nu Pharmacy goes out of their way to source their clients’ needs and treats them like gold. We have fourth generation family members coming to us,” said Mr Schnell.
Mr Schnell said even the Nu Pharmacy employees have shown their loyalty to the establishment, such as Carl Abrahams who has been working at the pharmacy since 1982.
“My staff are the cornerstone of the pharmacy, their children and their children’s schooling is my priority. I can rely on my staff,” said Mr Schnell.
He said the only problem he faces now is to decide who to pass on the knowledge of “old school pharmacy” as young pharmacist are no longer being mentored by old school pharmacist as he was back in his day.
“I consider myself an old school pharmacist.
“Mr Stein mentored me. The problem with our generation and people like me is who do we pass it (our knowledge and skills) on to, who is the next generation of pharmacists?
“A lot of youngsters are taken into corporate stores and put right at the coal-face and don’t have experience of old school pharmacists.”